Alice Bedwell
Alice Bedwell
Posted 06 March 2024

Retail’s Leading Women: AMA with Bridget Johns

For International Women’s Day 2024, we interviewed leading women in the retail marketing industry to shine a light on their experiences, hear their learnings, and help aspiring leaders. 

This AMA (ask me anything) is with Bridget Johns, a seasoned retail executive with over 20 years of experience working across diverse functional and geographical areas, Bridget has extensive experience as a retail operator, as an industry expert serving the technology industry and now as a founder/CEO.  In her 10+ years at RetailNext Inc., she made significant contributions to the company’s growth and had the opportunity to help 100’s of customers on their in-store analytics journeys.  In her tenure, Bridget created and led many of the teams within the organization, including Sales, Data Analytics, Customer Experience, Marketing and Strategic Partnerships. In addition to her work directly with retailers, she led engagements with partners including Meta, McKinsey, LiveRamp and Mastercard. Prior to RetailNext, Bridget held many leadership roles working with premium brands including L’Oréal, Tiffany & Co., Links of London and The Ralph Lauren Home Collection. Bridget has a strong history of guiding strategy and leading teams through high growth cycles and has been bringing those experiences to To&From as she grows that business from the ground up. Let’s take a look at Bridget’s learnings and milestones from her career so far.

Bridget Johns, retail leader

Can you share the journey of how you started in the retail marketing industry and the key milestones that have defined your career path?

Working in retail throughout high school and college, all I wanted when I graduated was to work outside of retail. I started my career in Equity Research and quickly realized that retail was way more interesting than researching the insurance industry! After business school, I intentionally sought out roles working for brands and have spent the rest of my career connected to retail in one way or another.

As a woman in a leadership role, what challenges have you faced in the retail marketing sector, and how did you overcome them to achieve success?

I can’t say I’ve faced any outsized challenges in my career, but what I will say is that I’ve always approached my career in a forward-looking manner. I try to learn from any mistakes or setbacks and then move forward, setting new goals and working hard to achieve them. It’s a really dynamic time to be in retail marketing and I believe the best marketers will be the ones who are nimble and curious. Nimble in approach, with an open mind to change the way things have “always been done” and curious to learn and lean into all of the dynamic change happening with AI, social, and just generally how people are responding to marketing today.

Can you highlight a specific project or initiative that you are particularly proud of in your career, and how it has impacted the retail marketing industry?

I was a very early hire at analytics company, RetailNext, and one of the things I did from the beginning was initiate our thought leadership programs. Two specific initiatives I launched and am still proud of are The Executive Forum – a CEO conference for the most innovative executives in retail and the RetailNext performance pulse  – initially monthly, now real-time insights into foot traffic and performance for brick-and-mortar stores. Both of these have given retail executives greater insight into what’s happening in-store, and how to position themselves for growth by leveraging data and insights.

Mentorship and support are crucial in professional growth. What advice would you give someone looking for the right mentor? 

I would say that mentorship goes both ways – find a mentor who is open to sharing with you, of course, but also learning from you. I would recommend interviewing your mentor candidates like you would for a job – making sure it’s a great fit for both of you.

What advice would you give someone who has just started out as a mentor? 

I’d say do more listening than talking. I think it’s important to understand what motivates a mentee and what they are looking for in the relationship – and, see above, figure out what they can teach you in return.

How do you approach balancing work and personal life in a demanding industry like retail marketing, and do you have any advice for other women striving to achieve this balance? 

I don’t know if I have this figured out, but I do think it’s important to give yourself grace and know that sometimes it’s work time, sometimes it’s family time, and sometimes it is “me” time. For me, it’s about setting clear expectations and having transparency with each stakeholder. For example, I’m not shy about telling my team that my son has a hockey tournament and I’ll largely be offline. Or in telling my son that I have early calls a couple of days a week and that he has to get himself ready for school (but I remind him that this is why I can take him to his tournament). It’s all about smart tradeoffs and communication.

 Aside from industry news, etc. I have a very robust network of other female entrepreneurs and we share what’s working and what isn’t all of the time. Sometimes on a quick text chain and other times in a deep dive to solve a particular problem.

Diversity and inclusion are essential in fostering innovation. How do you contribute to creating an inclusive culture in your team and the retail marketing industry as a whole? 

I think about inclusion as an intent. When we have open roles, we work hard to source candidates who are diverse. When we are looking for new brand partners to fill a particular category, we try to look wide for brands and brand founders who add more diversity to our assortment.

Given your experience, what advice would you offer to young women aspiring to pursue a leadership role within the industry?

I would say the best way to stand out in today’s environment is to go above and beyond, over-delivering when asked to do a particular project and not being afraid to make suggestions for improving processes or projects at your company. I’ve always believed that the most important thing you can do in a new job is to show your value right away – even if this means adding value outside of your particular role within a company. Make a name for yourself and if you can, make sure that leaders who are a level or two above your boss know who you are.

As a leader, what role do you believe women play in shaping the future of retail marketing, and what changes or advancements would you like to see in the industry to further support women’s growth and success?

Women make up the majority of retail purchasers and have an incredibly important voice in the success of retail marketing programs. In turn, it’s crucial that we do a better job of supporting women in their careers.  One of the best things we can do, in my opinion, is to ease the burden for working moms – longer maternity leave, better family leave policies and more benefits that support young families would all make a huge difference.

If you want to hear more from inspiring women in the retail industry, we’re proud to say our Lifecycle24 line-up is full of them! Get your ticket to the community conference of the year, on 30th April 2024, here.

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